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The local news media’s 1 year anniversary coverage of the killing of Patrick Lyoya recycles previous stories and gave Chief Winstrom an unquestioning platform to dictate the narrative around policing in Grand Rapids

April 4, 2023

It has been one year since a GRPD cop shot Patrick Lyoya in the back of the head, killing him instantly. 

A great deal has transpired over the past 12 months, with a tremendous amount of organizing and resistance to GRPD policing practices, raising Mutual Aid funds for the children of Patrick Lyoya and making demands on the GRPD budget. 

However, if one were to look at the coverage of the 1 year anniversary of the GRPD killing of Lyoya, these stories or this information would not be included. What we do get instead are stories that simply recycle information about the legal case against the the ex-cop who killed Lyoya, Christopher Schurr. This was the case with an MLive article, with the headline, The People vs. Christopher Schurr: Where officer’s murder case stands a year after Patrick Lyoya was killed.

Then there was the story that ran on WZZM 13 and WXMI 17. I say story, because both of these two TV stations didn’t produce their own stories, they simply posted the same Associated Press article, an article which is incoherent and all over the place. Here are a few highlights from the AP article:

  • A Grand Rapids Pastor who urged people to “do it right” when it came to protests was cited, even though this person has not been involved in the organized resistance with Lyoya was killed.
  • The AP story says that Lyoya was from Nigeria, which is wrong. Lyoya’s family were Congolese refugees.
  • City officials were cited, a Commissioner, plus City Manager Mark Washington.
  • The AP story also looks at other cases of Black people who were killed by cops, which included citations from organizations in other cities.

The article ends with a neighborhood association spokes person and the director of the Interfaith Dialogue Association in Grand Rapids, who believes that “cooler heads prevailed after the murder of Lyoya. The Interfaith Dialogue Association then goes on to say, “There are people who will disagree with me — a group that is extremely vocal and extremely disruptive who will claim Grand Rapids has not taken a step forward,” Stella said. “I understand their passion and frustration, but I see progress.” Unfortunately, such a statement goes unchallenged, as if it were fact. 

What was missing from the AP story are the numerous voices of people involved in the ongoing organizing in Grand Rapids around policing issues, such as Defund the GRPD and the Justice4Patrick movement.

Maybe the most egregious story that has appeared in the local news media in the past few days is a story that WOODTV8 ran on Monday, April 3rd. 

The story was 5 minutes and 26 seconds in length, which for local TV news stories is long. The channel 8 story begins with a brief recounting of the GRPD killing of Lyoya, but it then quickly turns into a 5 minute opportunity for GRPD Police Chief Eric Winstrom to control the narrative. 

Winstrom kept saying throughout the interview that this was a devastating tragedy, and was very careful not to call it a murder or a killing. Winstrom then went on to say, “We had eight very large protests here right in front of the police station. Of those eight very large protests, we had zero broken windows. We had zero property damage. We had zero uses of force by police officers. We had zero arrests. That was the police department acknowledging this is a difficult thing for a lot of people. We knew we couldn’t make it any better. We’re going to do everything we can not to make it worse as this process moves out. 

In this statement, Winstrom wants to equate property damage with violence. Wonstrom also uses some slight of hand around the claim that no one was arrested, nor did the GRPD use force against protesters. This maybe true in front of the GRPD headquarters, where in most cases the GRPD didn’t even bother to come out of the building and engage with protesters. What Winstrom failed to mention, was the fact that GRPD cops made arrests of protesters at City Hall, especially during some of the City Commission meetings that took place in the weeks after Patrick Lyoya was killed. In the above statement, Winstrom also seems to be saying that the GRPD did a favor to protesters, because they acknowledged that the death of Lyoya was a difficult thing. Winstrom once again demonstrating his arrogance and contempt for those protesting. 

From there on out, the audacity of the WOODTV8 interview with Winstrom only gets worse. The channel 8 reporter asked Winstrom about de-escalation training, which allowed the Police Chief yet another opportunity to control the narrative. From there Wonstrom talked about concerns over funding for the GRPD, but ends by using this platform to call for additional cops. 

In the end, WOODTV8 essentially provided Police Chief Winston with 5 minutes of free airtime to not only control the narrative about the GRPD killing of Lyoya, but to engage in misinformation and half-truths, especially since the channel 8 reported failed challenge Winstrom in the most basic way. Can you imagine of someone from Defund the GRPD or the Justice4 Patrick Movement were given 5 minutes to say whatever they wanted? It wouldn’t happen. 

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